There are two types of people in the modern world: hat lovers and hat haters. I am in the former group. It’s a good job really, as I wear a riding hat most days. I have two: the sumptuous navy velvet one that comes out for ‘posh’ and the everyday jockey skull that I wear with a purple velvet cover. I am deeply desirous of a vented hat for the summer; you don’t want to know about how sweaty my hat was after an exuberant grey mare and I had a show jumping practice session yesterday …
In addition to the ‘necessary hats’ – the riding hats and the hats with flaps to stop a perishing north wind from whistling into my brain in dark winter fields (beware the Judder Man when the moon is fat) – I have plenty of frivolous hats. I have tweedy and corduroy caps with peaks; velvet hats; berets; fake fur hats and a superb cream creation that only comes out for racing in the summer. I have a green velvet hat box full of millinery. I prefer to tuck my hair into a hat when it rains than to use an umbrella.
I don’t know why or when people stopped wearing hats as a matter of course. Once it was new hats that we craved but women have, I think, replaced their worship of millinery with a fetish for shoes. You seldom see a man wearing a hat now either, unless it is a baseball cap, a woolly job to protect a shaved head in winter or a farmer with his flat cap. I once had a boyfriend who had a fedora and shiny shoes; I thought it was a classy combination.
But other than the races, people only seem to wear ‘unnecessary’ hats when they celebrate the Church of England's rites of passage: weddings, christenings and funerals.